STOKESLEY is a fine place to be in the spring, with its bustling market place, bright gardens and tree-lined walk by the River Leven. Stokesley in the spring sunshine, such a rare treat this year, is even better.

After a late morning swim at the town's leisure centre, as I waited for my sister to meet me for lunch, I took the opportunity of catching a few rays, albeit wrapped up in my top coat, beside the blooming great planter which stands in the middle of the high street. But why, I began to ponder, is it known as a ziggurat?

Over the years these pages have regularly reported its existence, and the efforts of Stokesley Pride in Our Town Association to keep it looking its best. Indeed, upon its official unveiling back in 2002, the D&S Times described it as "dramatic" and "impressive", revealing it to have its own plumbing system and the ability to detach into three sections for easier maintenance.

The Northern Echo: The Stokesley ziggurat in all its glory

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ziggurat originates from ancient Assyrian, meaning height, pinnacle, or temple tower, and had its first recorded use in the English language in the Daily Telegraph in 1873, referring to a staged tower in pyramid form in which each successive storey is smaller than that below it.

The original ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia seem to have been somewhat larger in scale than Stokesley's, but it is a lovely addition to the town, and just a few yards from our lunch location, Bexters Tea Room.

Bexters – named after the daughter of its owners – has had a few different premises in Stokesley, beginning at College Square in 2013, before moving to Three Tuns Wynd three years later in search of more space. Five years after that, following the Covid-19 pandemic, Bexters set up in the old Westbrook Cycle shop, a prominent site slap bang in the centre of the high street, next door to the town hall.

Sunbathing done, Claire and I were shown through to a table towards the back of the cafe, not the best spot to watch the world go by in the town centre, but ideal for eyeing up the many delicious cakes and scones on offer.

The menu offers a wide variety of snacks, breakfast items, and light lunches, with a good selection of sandwiches, plenty of specials, and vegan and vegetarian options. Still feeling in a sunny mood, I chose the Mediterranean tart (£8.50), while Claire, probably more in tune with the actual temperature outdoors, went for the soup (mushroom) and bread roll (£6.50).

The Northern Echo: The Mediterranean tart was perfect for a light lunch

I wasn't anticipating that I would love my tart as much as I did, but it was absolutely delicious. The mix of roasted peppers, red onion and courgette was so tasty, and the herby pastry melted in the mouth. With a lovely, fresh bit of salad on the side, a dollop of coleslaw and a handful of crisps, it was a wonderful light lunch.

Claire's soup got equally good reviews – creamy and piping hot, with a crusty bread roll. Positives all round.

The Northern Echo: Soup of the day was mushroom

From the tremendous cake selection, we got a slice of rocky road to take away for later. It was a thing of beauty – super sweet and terrifically chocolately.

Service throughout was friendly and efficient, and it seemed as though many of our fellow diners were regulars, on first name terms with the staff. It's table service, but you pay for your food when you order, rather than afterwards. I'm not sure why that feels a bit unusual – after all, if you're ordering at a counter, it's standard to pay there and then – but I suppose it means staff can circulate better rather than being tied to a till. And as Bexters has both front and back doors, it would stop any unscrupulous customers thinking they could do a runner without settling the bill.

The Northern Echo: Rocky road from Bexters Tea Room in Stokesley, devoured later at home

Speaking of which, with two teas, ours came to £23.80 – great value we thought.

It was our first visit to Bexters, and we left very much thinking that it wouldn't be our last. With good service, reasonable prices and, from looking through the information on its website about its suppliers, a proud commitment to supporting other local businesses, it deserves its place at the heart of the high street in Stokesley, just a stone's throw from the town's temple of fabulous flowers.

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Bexters Tea Room,

Market Place, Stokesley, TS95DG

01642 712811

Open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 4pm

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Surroundings 8 Value 9 Service 8